Even people who pay a great deal of attention to their diets can be seriously under-hydrated or confused about how much water they need to drink each day. Proper hydration is essential for everything from muscle building to brain function, so you need to know that you’re supplying your body with all that it needs.
How Much Water You Really Need to Drink?
The first thing you need to do is calculate how much your body needs at rest. That’s working at a desk, puttering around the house, reading and doing all of the other things you do throughout the day. This is your bare minimum water requirement; what your body needs to function.
The basic equation is your body weight in pounds, divided by two. So if you weigh 200 pounds, you need 100 ounces of water per day if you’re not doing anything strenuous. If you’re working out, hiking, at a high altitude or outdoors a great deal, you’re going to need to add to those 100 ounces.
The Signs and Dangers of Dehydration
Thirst is not the first sign of dehydration. By the time you feel noticeable thirst you’ve already gone without water for too long or didn’t drink enough when you did have some. Thirst is your body giving you a heads-up, but your body is already feeling the effects of too little water.
Fatigue, lethargy, headaches, inability to focus, dizziness and lack of strength are all possible signs of dehydration. When in doubt about the reason for these symptoms, go ahead and down a glass or bottle of water.
One of the best ways to see how hydrated you really are is to look at your pee. If your urine is anything but clear, you need to get more water into your system. Yellow and orange are not the normal colors of healthy urine and if your urine is brown, you need to get to the hospital. Get enough water for a couple of days and you’ll see that your urine becomes clear again. You’ll also see those symptoms of dehydration disappear as early as the first day. (This assumes that you are otherwise healthy.)
When you don’t get enough water, every cell of your body is affected. When you sweat, you lose a lot of electrolytes, including sodium, potassium and chloride, which are essential to your body’s function. Pretty much all of your cellular communications revolve around sodium and potassium, including muscle contractions and action potentials. This is why you’ll often get a cramp or “charley horse” when you work out without proper hydration.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Which brings us to another hydration issue and that’s getting too much water. As much as you need water, it is possible to get too much. Having too much water in your system is called hyponatremia and it’s not actually from too much water as much as it is from an imbalance between water and electrolytes. When you lose water (through sweating and elimination), you lose electrolytes. If you replenish your body with just water, you dilute the electrolytes that are already running low in your system. If this occurs, your interstitial sodium levels can get so low that you can actually die. It’s not extremely common, but it does happen.
If you’ve ever watched a fierce tennis match, you’ve seen the players running and jumping for three, four or even five hours in the heat and sweating profusely. After a few hours, they’re fighting to maintain focus, balance and strength. This is because they’re losing so many electrolytes during the match.
This is why sports drinks or electrolyte drinks are so important. I don’t really care for Gatorade and other sports drinks that are loaded with artificial colors and flavorings. I actually use a special type of electrolyte drink that I’ll tell you about next time. Essentially though, you need to be sure that you’re replacing the electrolytes you lose through sweating.
If the cost of buying enough bottled water is an issue for you or you’d rather have a greener resource, I highly recommend getting a carbon filtration system in your home. They’re not all that expensive when compared to buying bottled water long-term.
Carbon filtration basically takes out all the stuff you don’t want in your water and then adds in minerals by allowing the water to sit in and absorb the minerals from rocks. It’s a pretty decent system and the water tastes clean and fresh, which is more than can be said for most tap water supplies.
However you choose to get your water, get it. You cannot function well for very long while getting too little of it.